Workers from four union federations went on a one-day general strike throughout France this Tuesday, and in some towns they were joined by school students who had “blocked” their schools.
Not only was this a nationwide protest about wages and the cost of living, although that is how it began, but what prompted the unions to call the strike was a new and vicious attack by Macron’s government against the right to strike.
In fact Macron was reacting to the highly effective, so far 3-week-long strikes of oil refinery and fuel depot workers, who are demanding a cost-of-living pay rise. And now the strike has even spread to nuclear plants.
The fact that the oil giants - in this case TotalEnergies and Esso-ExxonMobil - refused to meet the demand of workers for inflation-proof pay, when they are raking in such incredible super-profits, unsurprisingly just redoubled the workers’ resolve and they extended their strikes! Currently four out of seven of France’s refineries are out of action and many petrol stations have run out of fuel, yet ordinary people support the strikes, nevertheless.
Now the main issue is the anti-union law – which the government decided to implement when the refinery strike began to bite. They ordered workers to go back to work, threatening them with prison and fines if they did not comply.
Unlucky for the government, however, its law could not be applied against all of the workers on strike, so pickets continued and many workers respected them, despite the legal injunction.
At the time of writing, transport workers (mainly those working for the SNCF national railway) have joined the oil refinery workers and workers across industries led by the main federation, the CGT, including a section of teachers, for 24-hours of industrial action and protest. So reporters are asking, just as they do in Britain, if France is in for an Autumn, or even Winter of Discontent?!
Yet “discontent” is an understatement when it comes to the crisis faced by the working class - be in France or Britain. And one-day strikes, even if they unite workers across several sections, will not be enough to force the bosses to cough up the profits they have been swallowing with even greater greed than usual, in order to meet workers’ demands.
For now, in Britain, after six months of strikes, for instance, railway workers in the RMT are getting ready to vote in order to renew the strike mandate which expires at the end of this month. In other words, so far, six months of action hasn’t broken the stalemate.
Then again, only twice has action been co-ordinated with the train drivers’ union and on one Saturday only, with the postal workers’ union. Yet everyone is in the same boat. So it’s high time that everyone rowed together! And yes, let’s call for a real general strike; and keep it going, all out, until the bosses - on both sides of the Channel - raise their white flags!